Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Vogue's Featured Cruise Port"

Rio De Janiero, Brazil


jumpingpolarbear.com

   "Rio is famous for its wild beaches and Carnival celebrations. But this energetic city offers so much more. It lies between the sea and several fertile green mountains, including Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) Mountain, and Corcovado, home to the famous art-deco statue of Christ the Redeemer. Lined with 23 beaches along its coast, its most famous, Copacabana and Ipanema, are teeming with bikers, walkers, joggers, surfers, swimmers and sunbathers, all enjoying the scene as much as the sun."


The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss

"You haven't seen Rio until you've walked the mosaic-tile sidewalks of Ipanema or Copacabana. Watch a game of beach volleyball, or enjoy a cold drink in a beachside café. Then see it all again from above, looking down from Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar). Take the cable car up to the top for the view of a lifetime, looking down on Ipanema and Copacabana, the city skyline, the bay, and even Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado. It's a sight you'll never forget."

Sporting Adventures

"With beaches this beautiful, it's no wonder the locals have made the breathtaking miles of sand a surf the field for their sports. Soccer, or as the locals say, futebol is the most popular Brazilian sport and is often played right on this sandy turf. Brazilians are also passionate about beach volleyball, surfing, kitesurfing, sailing, competitive rowing and frescobol, a type of beach tennis. You may even see a hanglider or two using the beach as their landing strip."

Local Flavors

"Rio is a great place to try regional Brazilian cuisine. Meat lovers won't want to miss visiting a churrascaria, where various freshly grilled meats are brought to your table on long swords. You'll find meats of every kind and cut, including several you've never heard of. Try them, they're all delicious. Alongside the meat, you'll likely find feijoada, a hearty stew of black beans and pork served with rice at almost every meal. You won't be hungry again soon after such a substantial meal, and you won't forget it soon either."

Shopping for Bargains

"If you like shopping in quirky boutiques and fun shops, you won't want to miss shopping in Ipanema. You'll find outrageous bikini boutiques, fun shops that have spawned nationally-known brands, and even major jewelers selling Brazilian gems. Stroll along Rua Visconde de Pirajá peering in the windows - you never know what you'll discover."

Currency

"Brazil's currency is the Brazilian real (BRL). Most stores will accept credit cards; however, traveler's checks are not usually accepted. You may get a discount if you pay with cash."

For more information visit www.royalcaribbean.com

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 9: Tobago


Tobago Maps and Orientation: Tobago, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
www.tobago.world-guides.com

By Ed Wetschler, Recommend Magazine

   "The simple fact that the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort is the first full-service resort to open on Tobago in 12 years tell you a lot about Trinidad's shy little sister. This island at the southern end of the Caribbean is not exactly the capital of big resorts. Instead, it's a land of big trees, orange-winged parrots, coral reefs that glow like neon and locals who haven't been jaded by mass tourism. Ah, but will the Magdalena Grand-a large facility with the amenities of a four-star family- and group-friendly resort- ruin this latter-day Eden? Not at all. Tobago's pristine attractions are too numerous to be disturbed by one new hotel. What the Magdalena Grand does do is turn an island that might have been a mere niche interest for nature lovers, into a viable destination for people whose typical interests are more conventional- a place where they can comfortably try new adventures and get acquainted with Eden."

   "In contrast to most of the other hostelries on Tobago- which include a lot of small inns and hotels that offer limited services- the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort is a self-contained hideaway that will please travelers who want new facilities, golf, a spa, on-premises restaurants and bars, and other familiar touchstones. At the same time, it opens up new worlds through hiking, birding, and snorkeling and diving trips."

   "Tobago resembles a 26-mile-long stogie pointing southwest to northeast, with the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort occupying a long, sandy beach on the Atlantic side where the Hilton used to be. It lies south of the hurricane belt, so this is one of those few Caribbean resorts guests can book for August or September without getting into hot or wind-blown water."

Quoted from Recommend magazine August 2012 vol.27 number 11 page 48

"Vogue's Featured Cruise Port"

Ketchikan, Alaska


Alaskan Summer 2012 Family Cruise-Day Seven, Ketchikan
cruisewithmike.wordpress.com

   "Ketchikan originated as an Indian fish saltery, but the town's major growth began when it became a supply base and entry port for miners during the 1898 Gold Rush to the Klondike. Much of the town's colorful past is still in evidence, especially in the nearby Indian villages, where you'll see colorful carved totem poles and hear the fascinating legends that surround them."

The One Thing You Don't Want To Miss

"While fishing is by far the most popular sport in Ketchikan, there are a lot of other activities for people to take part in. In fact, one of the best ways to see the area and enjoy the scenery is simply to take a walk through town and to the Totem Heritage Center. There, you can explore the history of totem poles and see some terrific examples."

Other Fun Things To Do

"Experience the sheer granite cliffs, plunging 1,000-foot waterfalls, crystalline lakes and low-hanging mists of Misty Fjords from the air on a seaplane.
Fill your senses with excitement and adventure as you take the wheel of a four-wheel-drive vehicle and wend your way through a lush rain forest.
Treat yourself to a rowdy good time at The Great Alaskan Lumbejack Show where the world's best timber athletes go head to head in an action-packed hour of fun for the entire family!"

Sporting Adventures

"Take a memorable kayaking trip to the beautiful Tatoosh Island. Keep a lookout for bald eagles, seals, and sea lions.
Search for the Alaskan black bear on an exciting wildlife air/land adventure. It's one adventure not to be missed by the nature-lover or photographer.
Take a Jeep® safari deep into the backcountry to a pristine alpine lake, where you'll go for a scenic canoe ride.
Five varieties of North Pacific salmon thrive in the cold waters off Ketchikan. Our experienced guides will take you out fishing in a well-equipped fishing boat and, if you'd like, we can even arrange to have your catch sent home for you.
Immerse yourself in Alaska's breathtaking underwater world as you snorkel the calm and clear waters of Mountain Point.
Glide through the top of a rainforest canopy along a series of dual cables suspended between tall trees."

Get A Taste Of Local Flavor

"Ketchikan is the "Salmon Capital of the World," and as you'd expect, the salmon are plentiful and fresh."

Local Currency

"The official currency of the United States is the U.S. Dollar (USD)."

For more information visit www.royalcaribbean.com

"Secrets From A Travel Agent"

Week 7:"Which Cruise Line Is Right For You?"


Super Vacation Cruises-Cruise the Caribbean! www.atlantanalytics.com


What Cruise Line is Right for You?

Posted by Fodor's Editors on December 01, 2005 at 1:10:40 PM EST
Posted in Cruises
Not only are there different destinations for cruises but each cruise line tailors its activities to suit a broad range of lifestyles. Here are a few considerations you should keep in mind while sifting through brochures.
For Families -- Cruise ships with trained youth counselors and the most extensive facilities for children and teens, as well as a full roster of activities for parents and grandparents, include Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line.
For Sports Fans -- Royal Caribbean can't be beat for on board sports; each ship has a rock-climbing wall and sports courts, while some have miniature golf courses, roller-blading tracks, and ice-skating rinks.
For Water-Sports Enthusiasts -- Snorkelers and divers rate Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises highly for their organized tours and diving instruction programs. Small ships with retractable marinas offer the opportunity to sail, windsurf, and water ski from the comfort of your ship.
For Romantics -- Smaller ships with intimate lounges, such as SeaDream Yacht Club, Windstar Cruises, and Royal Clippers are the favorites of many couples. But don't overlook the cruise line that introduced us to the Love Boat -- while Princess Cruises' vessels are large, their signature feature is an abundance of private balconies.
For Foodies -- The importance of cruise food can't be overlooked and the hottest dining experience at sea is found on ships with specialty restaurants. Some feature regional cuisines, such as the highly rated Italian and Asian restaurants on Crystal Cruise Line ships. Others, like the fleets of Princess Cruises and Holland American Line, have upscale steak houses that serve the highest quality cuts of beef available. For a nominal fee, the meals are an exceptional value and the wine lists feature some of the world's finest vintages.
Cruise Ship Categories
Finding a cruise line that matches your personality is as important as finding the right ship. Some cruise lines cater to families, others to couples, active singles, and even food and wine aficionados. Selecting the right one can mean the difference between struggling with unmet expectations and enjoying the vacation of a lifetime. Some of the differences are subtle, but today's cruise lines fall into three basic categories: Mainstream, Premium, and Luxury.
Mainstream Lines
*Ships tend to be the big, bigger, and biggest at sea, carrying the highest number of passengers per available space.
*Ship decor runs the gamut, from glitz and glitter to nautical kitsch.
*Staterooms range from inside cabins for three and four to a variety of outside cabin configurations with or without balconies.
*Schedules include enough activities to keep even the most hyperactive passenger content. Expect to find deck sports, team trivia and "scavenger hunt" contests, Bingo, golf, and more.
*Entertainment tends to be high-energy, Las Vegas--style production shows; you can always find a variety of lounges.
*Dining is generally traditional, with two assigned seatings in the main restaurant for dinner. However, several mainstream cruise lines are experimenting with variations of open-seating dining and alternative restaurant options.
*Service is friendly but not necessarily polished.
The major cruise lines in this category are, among others, Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International.
Premium Lines
*Ships tend to be newer mid-size to large vessels that carry fewer passengers than mainstream ships and have a more spacious feel.
*Decor is usually more glamorous and subtle, with toned-down colors and extensive original art.
*Staterooms range from inside cabins for three or four to outside cabins with or without balconies to suites with numerous amenities, including butlers on some lines.
*In addition to traditional cruise activities, on-board lectures are common.
*Production shows are somewhat more sophisticated.
*Most ships offer two traditional assigned seatings for dinner. High marks are afforded the quality cuisine and presentation. Many ships have upscale bistros or specialty restaurants, which usually require reservations and command an additional charge.
*Attentive service is polished and unobtrusive.
The major cruise lines in this category are, among others, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Mediterranean Shipping Cruises, Oceania Cruises, and Princess Cruise Line.
Luxury Lines
*Ships range from megayachts for only a hundred or so privileged guests to mid-size vessels, which are considered large for this category. Space is so abundant that you might wonder where the other passengers are hiding.
*Tasteful and elegant surroundings often include such touches as authentic antiques and priceless art collections.
*Spacious staterooms are frequently all suites. On the newest ships, all cabins feature an ocean view or balcony, not to mention a high-tech entertainment center with CD players and TVs with VCRs or DVDs. Expect designer bath toiletries, fine linens, and fresh-cut flowers.
*Enrichment programs with celebrity and scholarly guest speakers and culinary classes taught by famous chefs augment traditional shipboard activities. Libraries are well-stocked with books, music, and movies to borrow.
*Evening entertainment varies by ship size, from cabaret to stylish production shows to none at all. Luxury-minded passengers tend to entertain themselves.
*Health clubs and spas are fully equipped and staffed with professionals who bring new meaning to indulgence. After jogging or a serious workout, guests can wind down with a swim or savor a relaxing soak in generous hot tubs.
*Open seating is the norm, and guests dine where and with whom they please during dinner hours. Top international chefs are tapped for their culinary expertise in designing menus to please the palate. Complimentary wines accompany meals on most high-end lines.
*At this level, the service staffs anticipate their guests' desires, and it's rare that a special request goes unfulfilled.
*You will not find the help groveling for gratuities. If they're not already included in the fare, tips are oh-so-discreetly suggested.
The major cruise lines in this category are, among others, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, and Silversea Cruises.
---Linda Coffman

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 8: El Salvador


"El Salvador" www.eplerwood.com

By Carla Hunt, Recommend Magazine

   "El Salvador may be Central America's smallest country, but it is filled with lots of things to see and do. From the capital, San Salvador, travelers drive just 30 minutes south to Costa del Sol, where you'll find a stretch of beach to call your own, and a world-class surfing waves to share- ISA World Masters Surfing Championships put the spotlight on Punta Roca. Or go north from the capital to the colonial town of Sochitoto with its cobblestone streets and thriving arts scene, then follow the Route of the Flowers that winds through the mountain coffee producing area to charming villages such as Apaneca and Ataco. The Route of the Artisans weaves along the folk art villages of Ilobasco (clay miniatures), San Sebastian (weavings), and La Palma (crafts inspired by the famous artist, Fernando Llort). In a country with 25 volcanoes, there is some unforgettable scenery, as hikers discover within the tropical forests of El Imposible National Park, and antiquity aficionados will thrill when visiting the pre-Colombian site of Joya de Ceren along La Ruta Maya."

Quoted from Recommend magazine August 2012 vol.27 number 11 page S3

"Vogue's Featured Cruise Port"

Kingstown, St. Vincent


"Kingstown" www.flickr.com


   "Kingston is a small Caribbean city that's big on old world charm. As capital of the lush volcanic island of St. Vincent, known to the Caribs as "Hairoun" (Land of the Blessed), Kingstown welcomes tranquility-seekers and adventurers alike. If strolling down cobblestone streets and visiting beautiful old churches is just your speed, you're in luck. However, St. Vincent also offers plenty of opportunities for spotting dolphins, hiking nature trails and swimming in waterfalls."

The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss

"A trip to Kingstown would not be complete without a visit to the St. Vincent Botanical Gardens. Established in 1763, they are the oldest in the Western Hemisphere and are home to some of the island's remaining endangered St. Vincent parrots, as well as some very rare indigenous plants and trees. This beautiful 20-acre park serves as a peaceful sanctuary in the middle of a city that's constantly abuzz."

Sporting Adventures

"If you're an explorer at heart, climbing the volcano could be the perfect challenge to round out your vacation. But for a less intense workout in equally spectacular surroundings, head out to Buccament Valley for some hiking and bird watching on the Vermont Nature Trails. And keep your eyes peeled for other interesting species of wildlife, like iguanas and armadillos."

Local Flavors

"The best way to get a taste of this authentic Caribbean city is by visiting Kingstown Market where you'll find people from all over selling spices, fruits, flowers and more. From the rich aromas and textures to the colorful personalities, it is truly a unique experience. So be sure to come prepared for lots of photo opportunities!"

Shopping for Bargains

"With only a dozen small blocks to cover, Kingstown is an ideal city for walking around and browsing in shops. Whether you're looking for local crafts to take home as souvenirs or you're in the market for a bigger investment like crystal or bone china, you'll find them - and everything in between - in the "City of Arches."

Currency

"The official currency of St. Vincent is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$), however U.S. dollars are widely accepted in most restaurants, shops and hotels. The same is true for credit cards and traveler's checks."

For more information visit www.royalcaribbean.com

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 7: Seeing Africa on Foot and by Canoe


Zambezi River  traveltamed.com

By Sarah Munoz, Recommend Magazine

   "The seduction of an African escape unfurls in Zambia's southern province and reveals itself in the northern bank of the Zambezi River, where Baines' River Camp- part of the Mantis Collection- is located. This is a colonial-style lodge offering a variety of up-close-and-personal options beyond the traditional game drive, although they also do those, and do them well- there will be plenty of big-game spotting in both the Lower Zambezi National Park and the Chiawa Partnership Park, considered one of Africa's last true wilderness areas, with animals still roaming freely."

   "For starters, there's a canoe safari- navigating the river's waters silently, without the noise of a motor, and gliding up to an antelope, birds' nests, buffalo and other creatures. Braver souls can try a walking safari, exploring the area on foot with a scout from the Zambia Wildlife Authority. With this option, the focus is on smaller animals, tracks and plant life, with travelers discovering everything from colorful insects to medicinal herbs."

   "Yet another alternative? An angling expedition- catch and release only- on the Zambezi, famous for the African tiger fish and other species such as bream, Cornish Jack and vundu. Baines' River Camp offers fly-fishing clinics that include four nights at the lodge and an overnight in a tented camp on the eastern boundary of the Lower Zambezi so as to cover more ground. Baines' also offers photo safaris during the year for photographers of all levels, as well as elephant workshops to learn more about the gentle animals."

   "The camp itself offers just eight decked-out suites, each named after a different African explorer and each with views of Africa's fourth longest river. Rates are inclusive of meals, laundry service and standard safari activities."

Quoted from Recommend magazine July 2012 vol.27 number 10 pages 35-36

"Vogue's Featured Cruise Port"

Philipsburg, St. Maarten


Philipsburg, St. Maarten  www.travelnet.travel


   "When the Spanish closed their colonial fort on St. Maarten in 1648, a few Dutch and French soldiers hid on the island and decided to share it. Soon after, the Netherlands and France signed a formal agreement to split St. Maarten in half, as it is today. Philipsburg displays its Dutch heritage in its architecture and landscaping. The island offers endless stretches beaches, beautiful landscapes and great shopping."

The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss

"Compete in an actual race on an America's Cup shortened course. Grind a winch, trim a sail or just sit back and enjoy. Professional sailors will give you a quick lesson, then you're off to compete on Stars and Stripes, one of the most famous sailboats in the world."

Other Fun Things to Do

"Rendezvous at one of the newest and trendiest restaurants in French St. Maarten. Explore Orient Bay, the French Riviera of the Caribbean, with over 1 1/2 miles of white-sand beaches.
Admire the delicate nature and dazzling colors of hundreds of butterflies as you tour St. Maarten's popular Butterfly Farm."

Sporting Adventures

"Tour the saltwater lagoons by kayak, and discover egrets, plovers, heron and pelicans.
Discover the undersea world of coral reefs and exotic fish as you take a snorkeling expedition through Shipwreck Cove.
Experience St. Maarten's vibrant history by bicycle."

Shopping for Bargains

"There are about 500 duty-free shops on St. Maarten with prices 25% to 50% below those in the U.S. The selection of jewelry and watches is premier on the Dutch side of St. Maarten. Friendly competition between merchants guarantees excellent prices on emeralds, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, pearls, gold and silver. St. Maarten offers a wide selection of fine jewelry and watches from such well-known designers as C2K, Caribbean Hook, Honora, House of Tanzanite, John Atencio, John Hardy, Kabana, Roberto Coin, Starnight, White Diamonds, Alfex, Concord, Faconnable, Gucci, Maurice Lacroix, Michele, Movado, Wenger, La Nouvelle Bague and more. Be sure to try a bottle of St. Maarten's own guavaberry liqueur. The guavaberry is exclusive to this island."

Local Currency 

"In October 2010, the Dutch side of St. Maarten voted for autonomous status separate from the Netherlands. Until that point, the Neterhlands Antilles Guilder (ANG) was the official unit of currency. However, the new official currency has yet to be decided, but U.S. dollards, traveler's checks and credit cards are widely accepted."

For more information visit http://www.royalcaribbean.com

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Secrets From A Travel Agent"

Week 6: Tico's Travel Safety Tips


Toucan Symbolizes Monarch
queenamandaxi.blogspot.com


   Travelers are faced with the task of protecting themselves while in a strange environment. Although there is no way to guarantee absolute protection from crime, the experts-law enforcement officials-advise travelers to take a proactive approach to securing their property and ensuring their safety. Precautions can save a vacation...

- Leave valuables at home! Also, be sure to leave a copy of your travel itinerary at home with your family and/or friends.

- Never leave your luggage unattended! Make sure your bags are labeled both in/outside. 

- When traveling by car, keep your doors locked and keep everything in the trunk.

- Familiarize yourself with local laws, customs, and language of where you are visiting. Register in person with the U.S. Embassy and/or Consulate upon arrival.

- Remember when you are at a hotel, make sure the clerk doesn't announce your room number, never open your door to a stranger, and always use room safes or lock boxes provided by the hotel.

- Keep valuables (passport, money, credit cards, etc...) hidden when you're on the move. Place your valuables in a money belt or neck purse, as they are safer than a fanny pack. Remember, to carry these things in two or more separate locations.

- It is recommended to exchange some of your money into local currency, but only convert what you need for a day or two. 

- "Be on guard" for pickpocketers and/or people who "accidentally" bump into you in major tourist areas. Bus, train, and subway stations; markets, and airports are all prime targets for this. In general, avoid walking alone after dark.

- If using an ATM, choose one in a well-lit public area with plenty of people around.

- Beware of purchasing counterfeit products, such as jewelry, clothes, and electronics. Always purchase your products from a legitimate chain store. 

- Carefully assess the risk of recreational activities on the islands. Sports equipment that you rent or buy might not meet U.S. safety standards. Be especially careful when out on excursions.

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 6: "Unanticipated Adventure in Curacao"


Curacao activechance.org

by Taylor Harker from Recommend magazine

   "The "C" of what's known as the ABC islands-Curacao-Aruba and Bonaire being the A and B, respectively-is a wee island of just 171 sq. miles. But don't let its size fool you-this itty-bitty piece of paradise is packed with authentic culture, distinctive food and a rich history."

   "The island differentiates itself from its Caribbean neighbors in the activities, too. With such a heritage, Willemstad offers less of the jet skiing, parasailing and banana-boating and instead offers a handful of activities that might prove much more interesting to the intrepid traveler."

   "For instance, how many Caribbean islands can you name that offer safari tours? At the Curacao Ostrich Farm, guests can board an open-sided safari vehicle for a tour that'll teach them everything there is to know about ostriches and ostrich farming. Meanwhile, thrill-seekers will jump at the chance of an ostrich ride. The island's historic slave-trade roots come out in the restaurant where an array of African meals, including ostrich burgers and steaks, can be sampled, or in the gift shop, which features a selection of authentic African souvenirs to take home."

   "An even more culturally involving experience can be had at Dinah Veeris' Den Peradara herb garden. You can opt for a self-guided tour of the gardens, learning the medicinal benefits of a variety of plants and trees via posted signs throughout, but for a truly immersive visit, schedule your tour with Dinah herself. Even meal settings in Curacao are an authentic experience. On this less-traveled island, gastronomy is often an open-air affair, in restaurants featuring picnic-style seating and open kitchen layouts. Consider the handwritten and verbal menus a testament to know how fresh the meals will be...so fresh, in fact, that it's not even worth printing the day's featured selections, since they're just bound to change tomorrow."

Quoted from Recommend magazine July 2012 vol.27 number 10 pages 52,54,55

"Vogue's Featured Cruise Port"

Costa Maya, Mexico


Costa Maya, Mexico Jonas Brum

 
   "Costa Maya, once a trading post for the Mayan Empire, is located in the Mexican Caribbean and is best known for its jungles, beaches, lagoons and Mayan ruins. Recent development and modern port facilities are making Costa Maya the perfect port of call. With so many activities, it will be hard to decide what to do first."


The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss

"Experience the ancient Mayan City of Chacchoben. Largely unexplored until 1999, this Mayan site dates back to 360 A.D. when it played an important role in the distribution of such precious items as wood, jade and exotic birds."

Other Fun Things to Do


"Check out the Mayan Pavilion Park, which has everything: Mayan handicraft centers, swim-up bars, great traditional restaurants, saltwater pools, a 650-seat amphitheater, Mayan art and architecture, amazing water sports and great shopping. For more adventures, explore the many surrounding Mayan cities like Chacchoben, Kohunlich and Dzibanche.
Take a break, relax and soak up the famous Mayan sun at Uvero Beach, complete with beach chairs, bar, restaurant, paddle boats, snorkeling and so much more.
Take an exciting ride on a ATV or Mini Rhino through the jungle. Then relax on the beach with a cold drink while you enjoy the ocean breeze."


Sporting Adventures

"Go snorkeling off the coast of Mexico and see parrot, butterfly and angelfish, and even an occasional glimpse of an eagle ray."

Shopping for Bargains

"Costa Maya offers jewelry stores, beachwear and Mexican specialties such as silver and handicrafts. Great buys are also available on quality designer watches by Maurice Lacroix and Movado. In addition, the port area offers a plaza with shopping, a great saltwater swimming pool and fire entertainment. Our recommended stores offer this port's best selection."

Local Currency

"Mexico's currency is the peso (MXN). The $ sign is used to refer to pesos, so don't be shocked at the price tags. Any prices in U.S. dollars are listed as US$ or USD. Many hotels, restaurants and shops also accept major credit cards, which usually offer you a good exchange rate."

For more information visit www.royalcaribbean.com

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 5: Seeing Africa by Elephant


Elephant ride-South Africa Tours, Best Safari Tours of South Africa
http://www.south-africa-tours-and-travel.com/south-africa-tours.html


   "The beauty of the African wilderness is now more easily viewed through a variety of vantage points. The big highlight at Camp Jabulani, a Relais & Chateaux property, is elephant-back safaris within the Kapama Game Reserve in South Africa's Limpopo Province, with each guest being paired with an elephant based on their temperament. Once sitting comfortably atop the pachyderms on high-density foam saddles, you'll get a closer-than-ever view of giraffes and birds and a different vantage point of the bushveld."
   "The one thing that Camp Jabulani has that is clearly unique is the herd of elephants," says managing director Adine Roode. "It truly is a life-changing experience, interacting with the animals in such close proximity-and they truly have magical characters, each and every one of them."
   Guests can also go on a night safari aboard the elephants with the help of battery-powered spotlights, then help put the elephants to bed. You'll also get to play with baby elephants and even a "hug" from them. Besides the thrill of the elephants, one of Camp Jabulani's most enticing aspects is its Pioneer for Change program-a "pay for three nights, stay for four" package that requires guests to work half a day at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, which focuses on the conservation of rare and vulnerable animals, to get the fourth night free. Although all stays include a visit to the center, the volunteer aspect of this program takes up a whole morning. You'll assist in preparing food for and actually feeding cheetahs, vultures, wild dogs, and small cat species. Participants will also be able to visit the Animal Hospital and talk to the Centre's resident vet if they wish. Camp Jabulani, by the way, is named after a baby elephant that was saved by the Centre and became the inspiration for the camp. As Camp Jabulani was created to care for these animals, each visit helps to support and sustain the herd.
   In addition to the elephant-back safaris, a stay here also includes accommodations in the form of an air-conditioned suite, game drives, bush walks, all meals and daily laundry service."


Quoted from Recommend magazine July 2012 vol.27 number 10 pages 34 and 35

Vogue's Featured Cruise Port

Colon, Panama


Colon Panama www.destination360.com

   "As the capital of Colon Province on Panama's central Caribbean coast, Colon lies at the very heart of the country's rich history and innovation. This important port  town is less than an hour's drive from Panama's most historical attractions, so it's easy to fit in visits to sites like the Panama railroad, Gatun Locks, and old Spanish fortress Fort San Lorenzo. And of course, crystal blue waters and pure white sand are always a sweet setting for a cruise vacation kick-off."


The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss

"While in Panama, be sure to pay a visit to the impressive Gatun Locks, where you can watch ships and tankers being lifted up 85 feet to the level of Lake Gatun. And bring your camera - you'll want to capture the amazing views that surround this engineering marvel. Also, if you love a good fortress (and who doesn't), you've got to check out Portobelo National Park. This charming bayside village is home to 16th- and 17th-century Spanish forts, ruins and treasure houses."

Sporting Adventures

"Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly… lucky for you, Panama offers amazing opportunities to observe each in their natural habitat. If you're a bird watcher, head to the village of Achiote, where you can attempt to name the hundreds of species that have taken up residence there. Or if you're somewhat of a fish yourself, Isla Grande is a popular spot for diving and surfing. Its white-sand beaches and turquoise waters make it ideal for sunbathing as well!"

Shopping for Bargains

"Two words: Duty Free. Colón is actually the largest duty-free zone in the Americas, so whatever's on your shopping list - you're bound to find it here! Be sure to check out The Colón Free Zone. It consists of 1,600 showrooms for wholesalers and retailers who travel here to purchase consumer goods at cost, but you may find some showrooms that welcome tourists as well. It's worth the trip just to take in the scene."

Get a Taste of Local Flavor

"Although American, French and Spanish cuisine is easy to find around Colón, you don't want to miss out on the hot and spicy local cooking. And remember, you're in a prime spot for fresh seafood, so take advantage. Try a regional specialty like Ceviche, a marinated fish dish. If seafood isn't your thing, order the Empanadas, turnovers filled with meat or cheese."

Local Currency

"The official currency of Panama is the U.S. dollar (USD), known as the Balboa. Many stores and restaurants also accept major credit cards, which usually offer you a good exchange rate."

For more information visit royalcaribbean.com



Friday, July 27, 2012

"Secrets From A Travel Agent"

Week 5: Cruising to Alaska



 
   We have a little secret and we would love to share it! Have you thought about cruising to Alaska? It's the end of July but it's not too late to book a cruise this year. Many travelers don't realize that now is the best time to book an Alaskan cruise. This is the time of year that cruise lines need to fill vacant cabins. Although these are late bookings for the season, many major cruise lines have hot deals to fill these cabins. There are lots of great deals to be had but keep in mind that cruise rates change day by day depending on how the cruise lines fill each sailing date. Now is the time to book an Alaskan cruise for 2012!

Image courtesy of www.travelsfy.com Alaska cruise guide

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 4: Bora Bora



   "This is one of the premier South Pacific destinations. It has come to symbolize romance since Christian Fletcher fell for the lovely Tahitian noblewoman, sparked the famous mutiny and put the area on the map as a spot where romance blooms like plumeria blossoms."
   "And the St. Regis Bora Bora is one of the premier spots of the fabled lagoon that has fascinated visitors to French Polynesia since early explorers first set foot on the island."
   "The property sits in unspoiled surroundings on Motu Ome'e, off the main island of Bora Bora, facing the legendary beautiful waters for the which the region is famous. With the views of Mount Otemanu and the fabled and pristine beaches of the area, the St. Regis is a magical place."
   "Here, the overwater villas, which offer the ultimate in seclusion, boast a terrace with outdoor shower, gazebo dining area, and deck chairs, not to mention captivating views of powdery white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Indoors, a living room and separate bedroom combine enchanting Polynesian details and are furnished with the latest amenities, including a Bose Sound System and WiFi."

Quoted from Recommend magazine June 2012 vol. 27 issue number 9 page 24

Image courtesy of student.nu.ac.th Bora Bora

Vogue's Featured Cruise Port

Castries, St. Lucia



   "See the beautiful coastline of St. Lucia from the deck of a catamaran. You'll have an unbeatable view of the scenery and get an exhilarating ride, too."

Other Fun Things to Do

"Take a tour of St. Lucia's green mountains, banana valleys, rain forests, fishing villages and the town of Soufrière. Drive by bus through Castries, Cul de Sac, the Roseau banana plantations, and the fishing villages of Anse-La-Raye and Canaries. Then board a boat for a relaxing ride back down the scenic coastline to Anse Cochon for swimming in beautiful crystal-clear waters.
Hike Soufrière, home of St. Lucia's most famous landmark, the towering Pitons, a set of primeval twin peaks topping 2,000 feet. Then take a relaxing dip in one of the warm sulfuric pools full of special nutrients."

Sporting Adventures

"Troll for blue marlin and other big game fish on a challenging deep-sea fishing adventure."

Shopping for Bargains

"The best duty-free shopping in this port is near the harbor in Castries at the Spanish-style complex of Pointe Seraphine. Fine china, crystal, perfume and leather goods are found there.  Designer jewelry and watch brands are available at great savings, including Caribbean Hook, Honora, John Atencio, John Hardy, Kabana, Roberto Coin, Starnight, Alfex, Cartier, Concord, Gucci, Maurice LaCroix, Michele, Movado, Wenger and more. The outdoor market on Jeremie Street offers a wide array of straw goods. The best known products are the hand-silk-screened and hand-printed fabrics and fashions created by local craftsmen."

Local Currency

"The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD). U.S. dollars, credit cards and traveler's checks are widely accepted."
For more information visit: http://www.royalcaribbean.com
Image courtesy of dreamcatcher.sarspots.com "Castries, St. Lucia" image



Friday, July 20, 2012

"Secrets From A Travel Agent"

Week 4: River Cruises



   Have you ever thought of taking a river cruise? River cruises have become increasing popular among travelers recently. Unlike typical cruises, river cruises are more intimate with ships accommodating fewer passengers and can sail into smaller ports in cities along many rivers of the world. These cruises usually hold between one and two hundred guests and call on ports that have docks near or sometimes in the center of towns and cities. 

Photo courtesy of  http://www.vikingrivercruises.com/
 
   The many advantages river cruises have over "big ship" cruising are not just less passengers. With fewer people on board, guests truly experience personal luxury. These cruises have a greater staff to guest ratio than "big ship" cruising, which translates to more a more personalized travel experience. The feel aboard these vessels is country club casual. Nearly all cruise fares include shore excursions, bottled water, beer, wine, soft drinks, and specialty coffees. With these inclusions, guests don't feel as though they are being "nickle and dimed" on the little "extras" that big ships charge for. 

Photo courtesy of  http://www.vikingrivercruises.com/
  
   If you are thinking of taking a river cruise, now is the time to plan and book your trips for 2013. Here's the secret: cruise operators are now offering 2 for 1 cruise fares and sometimes 2 for 1 airfare depending on the itinerary and dates for 2013. Destinations for river cruising are numerous including: Europe, Asia, Egypt, Russia, and the Galapagos islands to name a few. Taking a river cruise is a truly unique and enjoyable experience that should be on your travel wish list.     

Photo courtesy of  http://www.vikingrivercruises.com/

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vogue's Featured Cruise Port

Basseterre, St. Kitts




   "With dormant volcanoes, golden sand beaches and gorgeous green hills, St. Kitts is a beautiful backdrop to your Caribbean adventure. Discovered in 1623 by the British and settled by the French in 1625, the island's deep colonial history is reflected in the abandoned fortresses, as well as its landscaped gardens, city squares and architectural details."

The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss

"Whether you're a history buff or just want to take in the scenery, be sure to visit the 350-year-old estate, Romney Manor, once owned by a British earl. The beautiful grounds include magnificent gardens, exotic plants and an amazing African Saman tree, which covers half an acre and is believed to be as old as the estate itself."

Other Fun Things to Do

  • "Explore Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. Climb to the top of the main hill to take in amazing views of St. Eustatius and Sandy Point Town.
  • Walk through Independence Square. Now a small public park, it was built in 1790 for slave auctions and council meetings.
  • Visit St. George's Cathedral. While originally christened Notre Dame in 1670 by the French, it was destroyed more than once and was most recently rebuilt in 1869 in typical Georgian style."

Sporting Adventures

"With this island's dormant volcanoes and rugged mountains, hiking is a popular activity. And of course with turquoise-blue Caribbean waters, you can spend the day snorkeling, swimming or fishing."

Get a Taste of Local Flavor

"If you're looking for a wide range of island flavor, St. Kitts is for you. Chances are you'll come across all sorts of culinary delights stemming from West Indian, Creole, Indian, and French cultures. Typical dishes include roast suckling pig, shellfish and a variety of locally grown produce such as yams, breadfruit and papaya."

Local Currency

"The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD). U.S. dollars, credit cards and traveler's checks are widely accepted."
For more information visit: http://www.royalcaribbean.com

Image courtesy of www.panoramio.com "Photo of Basseterre, St. Kitts cruise ship terminal"

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 3: Monte Azul Boutique Hotel, Costa Rica




   "Costa Rica has no shortage of special experiences: in the rainforest, by the sea, and among the local communities of the most engaging ticos, the Costa Rican people. The destination is also masterful in mixing luxury lodgings into its adventurous and eco-friendly vacations; cultural enrichment can be harder to find, though.

   However, Monte Azul Boutique Hotel, perched high on a 125 acre nature reserve in the Talamanca Mountain Range along the Chirripo River in south-central Costa Rica, seems to touch all bases. Guests are accommodated in spacious casitas, surrounded by gardens and birds galore, and furnished with queen-size or twin beds, big bathrooms, lots of original fine art, a compact designer kitchen, free WiFi, and garden patio. Its 6-night, all-inclusive Food, Nature + Art package features a fiesta of hands-on, involving activities.

   The outdoor adventurer can go ziplining, white-water rafting, spend a day at the beach, and take a guided tour through the Chirripo Cloudbridge cloud forest reserve with a visit to its research station. During a cheese making workshop, food lovers visit a sustainable home dairy and learn to milk a cow before getting involved in cheese making with the family. Or they can learn about producing organic coffee at the Las Orquideas plantation and visit the local farmers market or public market in San Isidro to help Monte Azul's chef select the ingredients for a cooking class, as well as instruction on making bocas (traditional Costa Rican tapas). Before becoming a boutique hotel, Monte Azul was established as a Center for Contemporary Art and Design, and today the art center remains part of the many guest activities including a workshop in the fun and fascinating technique of monotyping with laureate Costa Rican artist Alvaro Gomez, or learning to make paper."

   "The resort is located three hours south of San Jose via the Pan American Highway and 1.5 hours from the Quepos Airport (XQP) near Manuel Antonio National Park."


Quoted from "Recommend" magazine July 2012 vol.27 number 10 pages 30 and 32

Photo courtesy of www.journeyidea.in Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna, Costa Rica


Friday, July 13, 2012

"Secrets From A Travel Agent"

Week 3: "Saying "I do" in the Caribbean"




   According to Recommend magazine, "Because Caribbean weddings are so popular in the U.S., it's generally easy to tie the knot in the islands. Still, whenever possible, couples marrying in the Caribbean, along with their travel agent, should work with resort wedding coordinators to ensure they meet all the legal requirements mandated by their respective island nation. Each island has different legal requirements. Some islands require the bride and groom to be in the country a certain number of days before applying for a license; others allow couples to apply for a license remotely. Most islands require passports, birth certificates and proof of marital status to issue marriage licenses."
   One of the best kept secrets, if you are thinking of having an island wedding, is that June is the most popular and expensive month to plan your event. Depending on your schedule and budget, it may be worth exploring other months to get married in an island getaway. Also, because June is a very popular month, you may want to start planning now for June 2013. Resorts only offer a certain availability and you don't want to miss out on the perfect venue to hold such an important occasion.


Quoted from Recommend magazine June 2012 vol.27 number 9 page 62
Photo courtesy of www.alohaislandweddings.com

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 2: Island Weddings in Montego Bay, Jamaica



Most island weddings occur in the month of June. If you are thinking about an island wedding, try a different month of the year or start planning now for June 2013.

Secrets St. James Montego Bay, Jamaica

   "The energy of Montego Bay is never too far away from the adults-only comforts of this resort and its private stretch of beach. Secrets St. James Montego Bay captures the spirit of a lively Jamaican getaway and adds great alternatives and perks for a wedding."
   "Small wedding groups can enjoy a ceremony in a gazebo right over the sea, with the island's Blue Mountains as a backdrop, while larger parties can hold their nuptials on a gazebo in the sand. Regardless of their choice, the rich blue waters are always one of the star attractions. Couples have several packages to choose from, each of which includes the services of the onsite wedding coordinator, the cake, a 15 percent discount on all spa treatments, and free anniversary nights."
   "The bride and groom also have lots of touches and details they can add to their wedding for an extra fee to make their wedding all the more special. The most popular addition at this resort is a steel drum band to infuse the whole affair with an island feel. Another romantic choice-a bonfire on the beach."

Quoted from "Recommend" magazine June 2012 vol.27 number 9 pages 58 and 60

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Secrets From A Travel Agent"

Week 2: "10 Important Tips to Follow When You Travel"



1. Alert your credit card providers. Before you leave, alert your card providers about where and how long you'll be traveling. This can help the fraud department with bogus charges. 

2. Stop your postal mail.

3. Weed out your wallet. Take only the essentials such as a Driver's License and just two credit cards--one to carry and one locked in your room's safe. Do NOT carry your Social Security card. Men, keep your wallet in a buttoned breast pocket or buttoned pants pocket. Women, wear a handbag with wide straps and locked clasps diagonally across your chest. Do not hang your bag on a restroom door. Always be careful with your identity abroad.

4. Do not take your checkbook. Do not take any bills or private papers either.

5. Consider a temporary credit freeze. Identity thieves can't open accounts in your name while you're away, but it doesn't stop you from using your credit card. Call Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It's tedious and costs a bit but a good idea for a long stay way.

6. Carry a spare. In addition to your "real" wallet, carry a spare wallet with a few dollars and maybe some old useless keys or bogus information inside. If you're accosted, hand over the "spare" wallet. The crook will see some money, etc. and run away. You run the other way too!

7. Use safer ATMs. Debit cards are best left at home. Bank "lobbies" are better monitored and less vulnerable to devices that robbers use to capture your important information.

8. Be careful with hotel computers. Do not access financial data on hotel or other public computers or on public Wi-Fi networks. You never know what identity stealing devices are out there.

9. Beware of "Front Desk Fraudsters". A late-night call to your room from a clerk asking for your credit card information may be a ruse by an identity thief. Call the front desk yourself.

10. Keeping your home safe while you travel. Bring in any outside furniture. Non-refrigerated foods should be put in air-tight bags/containers. Empty the ice tray and turn off the automatic icemaker. If you have any combustibles in the garage--e.g. propane tanks--get rid of them. Replace batteries in fire alarms, thermostats, security systems, and battery operated items. Unplug televisions and computers to prevent damage in a storm. Close all drapes/blinds to keep the heat out. Put your houseplants outside so the rain can reach them, or find a trustworthy friend. Notify the local authorities that you will be leaving so that they can keep an eye out on your place. If you have a trustworthy neighbor, you might leave them a key in case of an emergency. Consider asking or paying someone to check your premises inside and out.

All of these tips are very valuable and you many want to consider them before your next trip. Remember, be a safe and smart traveler!

Parts of this article were taken from AARP magazine and a Scripps newspaper article June, 2012.
Image courtesy of "Travel Icons" www.vandelaypremier.com

The Official Office of Vogue Vacations... where the planning of stylish trips happens!




Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Article 1: Honeymooning on the Amalfi Coast, Italy


  
 "The beautiful Amalfi Coast was created by the gods for love, Italian-style. This is, after all, that stretch of Italian coast that runs from Salerno to the Isle of Capri- a one-time playground for Renaissance princes and counts, as well as today's celebrities and wealthy elite."
   And every man wants to be a prince for his princess on their honeymoon, so why not check out an elegant 12th century Italian villa where you belong, all tucked away in the hilltop village of Ravello and perched high on the cliffs 1,000 ft. above the sparkling Mediterranean, overlooking some of the coast's most picturesque fishing villages.
   "Today that palatial parsonage is operating under the name of Palazzo Sasso hotel, a stunning five-star deluxe property and part of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts collection- truly a royal honeymoon hideaway where couples will be spoiled and pampered like the royals who lived there yesteryear."
   "This is not the kind of place for couples who sniff at traditional elegance. All rooms and suites are decorated with handmade Vietri tiles, antique carpets and furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries". Guests can expect brass accessories and appliques, Frette linens and Bulgari amenities. "The Spa, located in the Pallazo gardens, offers a full menu of massage and beauty treatments, plus Turkish steam bath". 
   For honeymooning couples, you'll want to check out some of the property's suites and jr. suites that promise the most unforgettable stay in this beautiful property- accommodations that are as unique as the honeymoon memories they'll bring home with them. "For the ultimate honeymoon stay, the Nfinito Suite is the hotel's penthouse suite with gorgeous views over the Amalfi Coast from its expansive terrace, which has a jacuzzi pool and large dining area. Perfect for the new lord and lady."   

Quoted from "Recommend" magazine June 2012 vol. 27 number 9 page 56

Friday, June 29, 2012

"Secrets From A Travel Agent"

Week 1: "It's All About Customer Service"


We would like to share with you six reasons for having our experienced travel agents plan your trip:

1. Get over the idea of great online deals that somehow travel agents can't get. We have access to many sources and cruise and tour specials distributed directly through our consortiums and cruise lines.

2. Online sites are a snap for buying simple trips, but online booking of complicated trips can be--well--complicated, and your chances of missing out on the best deals increase.

3. Upgrades! If you buy cheap, you get cheap. But even when you buy cheap, a good agent can sometimes score a one or two level cabin upgrade on cruises. Also, when you select a bottom-end "from" hotel on a tour package, a good agent can sometimes get you upgraded to a better property.

4. Travel counsel. WE KNOW DESTINATIONS!

5. Efficiency. Online bookings can take a lot of time. It may take two to three hours to zero-in on the best option. If you value your time, a 10 minute call to one of our agents will give you what you'd take hours to find yourself.

6. Help in a pinch. When something "misfires" on your trip, there's no substitute for having us work on a solution where everyone in your predicament is waiting in line for an airline or hotel to find a fix. Serious difficulties don't hit you often, but when they do, our agents are always available.  

So whether you are planning a cruise, land or tour package, African safari, escorted or independent vacations, our travel consultants are ready to serve you. We are experts that specialize in connecting you to the world's best destinations. Remember, when you choose Vogue Vacations you choose to travel the world in style!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

   Our travel counselors at Vogue Vacations have a total of over 40 years experience in the travel industry. Our agents are certified by ICTA, Institute of Certified Travel Agents and are accredited cruise counselors with CLIA Inc. (Cruise Line International Association). 
   We pride ourselves on our personal relationships with our clients based on integrity and trust. We are available before, during, and after your vacation and will provide a wealth of information that savvy travelers need to make the right decision when planning their vacation. 
   We will save you time, assure you of great values, and memorable experiences. Our travel counselors will take the time to get to know you so that your vacation dreams become a reality. 

Welcome to Vogue Vacations where travel is in fashion! Our blog has frequent updates, travel experiences, and traveler information and critiques. We will feature weekly articles including unique travel destinations and traveling on a budget. Remember, when you choose Vogue Vacations you choose to travel the world in style!